Maryland’s athletic association on Friday approved the expansion of the state’s high school football playoffs to include all 182 teams qualifying for postseason play in 2021 to accommodate COVID-related postponements and cancellations during the regular season.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association executive council brought the proposal to the state football committee, which is composed of representatives from nine districts, earlier this month. It was approved with a 12-1 vote.
“It certainly opens opportunities for more teams to participate in the playoff atmosphere that many of our teams have experienced,” said Michael Duffy, president of the MPSSAA and Carroll County’s supervisor of athletics. “How good is it? I think that will be determined over time. It’s hard to make a rush assessment of how good a decision it was until we really see how it plays out.”
The MPSSAA also expanded the number of classifications from four to six. Instead of champions being crowned in Classes 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A, there will be six teams raising trophies at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, in Classes 4A, 4A-3A, 3A, 2A, 2A-1A and 1A. The extra classifications will have no effect on the postseason schedule or the number of playoff rounds.
Only the top four teams in each region in the four classifications qualified for postseason play before the MPSSAA doubled the number of teams that qualify from 64 to 128 and cut the regular season from 10 games to nine in 2019. Now, all 182 public school teams that play football in Maryland are eligible for postseason play in the first round of regional playoff games Nov. 5. State championship games are scheduled for Dec. 3 and 4, but a third day could be added with there being six championship games.
This change brings football, at least this year, in line with every other high school sport except wrestling in that every team makes the playoffs. Duffy emphasized that the change is in place only for 2021 but noted there would be discussions about permanent expansion.
“This is something for 2021 based on what was deemed to be an emergency,” he said. “I think as this plays out we will take time and we will value people’s opinions and make decisions moving forward that we feel serves our population and our clients, who are the students and their communities.”